Hamilton’s representative in the Ontario Cabinet didn’t come right out and say it, but in a post-budget interview with the Bay Observer, MPP Ted McMeekin strongly hinted that one of the revenue tools the government will implement to pay for transit will be a 1 percent increase on the HST.
The move has been widely predicted as a likely option because sales tax is the easiest to implement and manage of the many revenue “tools” that have been proposed, and it has the potential to raise over 2 billion dollars, which is what the Metrolinx Big Move will cost annually. The government originally thought the tax would be levied across the GTAH only, but McMeekin says there could be constitutional problems given that Ontario collects taxes in conjunction with Ottawa.
Should an area-rated tax not be possible McMeekin says the province would likely impose it province wide — but still dedicate all of the proceeds to infrastructure. “It (the sales tax increase) might well be across-the-board with 2 funds — one for rural roads and bridges — the other for high volume transit projects,” he said. Premier Kathleen Wynne has also raised the possibility of a rural roads and bridges fund.
Speaking of transit McMeekin took issue with the action of Hamilton City Council in rejecting all of the funding “tools” being considered by Queen’s Park. “I hope they know what they’re doing,” he said “ I’m with McHattie on this.” (Councillor Brian McHattie was the only councillor who voted against council’s rejection of additional taxes to fund transit.) McMeekin added, “the world has changed…we are in this regionally. We’ve gone beyond ‘I put a dollar in, I get a dollar back,’ we need to make the case that we are all in this together.”
Asked how the government will impose the promised 15 per cent decrease in auto insurance rates, McMeekin hinted that there are ongoing negotiations with the insurance companies to mitigate the hit to their bottom line.
One possible measure being suggested is a crackdown on insurance fraud, which is reflected in high auto insurance rates. “We are working with the industry,” he said. “Fraud (reduction) will eliminate two thirds of the premium.”
It also sounds like bad drivers are going to pay even more than at present, because the government intends to eliminate the practice of charging higher premiums depending on what part of the province a motorist lives in.
The Minister defended the government on the cuts to Children’s Aid Societies that resulted in the layoff of 70 child care workers at the Hamilton CAS.”There has been a rapid decrease in the number of children in care, but the (CAS) budgets keep going up.” He said the government will provide $70 Million to some CAS societies to help them cover their 2012-2013 operating deficits.